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Medical Malpractice and minors: Unique issues when a child is injured

Medical malpractice claims involving children often abide by a special set of rules.

An injured or ill child presents unique obstacles. Even children who can communicate may not be able to understand or describe the pain or other abnormal symptoms they are feeling. This can lead to delays in parents or other adults discovering a child’s medical problems and delays in doctors diagnosing and treating them.

If a physician or nurse failed to properly diagnose or treat an injury, that professional may be liable for the harms and losses connected with the misdiagnosed or improperly treated injury or illness. Here is some basic information for parents who find themselves navigating these situations.

What are some examples of medical malpractice claims that involve children?

Medical malpractice claims involving children could take many different forms. Some examples include:

Birth injury. A failure to intervene during delivery when a fetus is in distress can result in a birth injury due to a lack of sufficient oxygen. An aggressive or improper approach to delivery can physically injure the child.

Misdiagnosis. Children should have regular doctors’ appointments. Pediatricians are expected to monitor the child’s growth and development during these check-ups. The physician should investigate any irregularities and bring in a specialist if needed. Failure to notice an irregularity or to listen to a parent’s concern could result in the pediatrician missing critical signs and symptoms of a harmful condition. A failure to properly diagnose a disease can result in delayed treatment leading to injury and potential death.

Surgical error. Improper surgical technique or practices can also result in further injury.

These are just a few examples.

Are there unique considerations when the injured party is a minor?

A common concern with medical malpractice cases involves time limits. State law generally governs these limits. In California, state law generally allows one year from the date the victim knew or should have known about the injury. However, if the victim is a minor, state law allows three years from the date of the injury. When the child is under the age of six, the deadline is the later of three years or just before the child’s eighth birthday. For injuries occurring before or during birth, the deadline is the child’s sixth birthday.

Parents also must consider that children are still growing. As such, determining the true extent of an injury can be difficult. This can make it difficult to estimate future medical costs and needs.

These are just a few issues to navigate when a child is the victim of medical malpractice. Parents are often wise to seek legal counsel to help better ensure these and other issues are addressed.